Saturday, April 29, 2017

Happy Birthday, Russ!

It is this handsome boy's fifth birthday this Sunday, April 30th. Russ is a  happy, fast, smart, and very charming boy. He  plays on a three man soccer team and last week the team was down a man, so Russ stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and scored six goals!  Happy Birthday Russ!

Why I Believe Mason Wells

On Sunday evening, April 23rd, Mason Wells, one of the missionaries that was in the Brussels Belgium airport terrorist attack, last year, spoke. He told about receiving a testimony of the Book of Mormon when he was 15 on a cold winter night hike with some other young men. They were having an activity and had taken their scriptures with them.  When he graduated from high school he applied to the U.S. Naval Academy and was turned down. He was very disappointed. So, he prayed and knew he should go on a mission. He mentioned that he had had a previous experience with terrorist bombings. He and his Dad were at the Boston Marathon, his mother was running it in 2013, when two homemade bombs went off near the finish line. They knew she had finished and were trying to catch up to her and decided to take a short cut through a street and missed being bombed. His mom was not hurt.

So, he is twenty months into his French mission when he gets transferred to Brussels. He had been there a month and said it was really a good change for him and he was loving Brussels. He and his companion, and a senior missionary elder, were taking a sister missionary to the airport. They were at a ticket kiosk and couldn't get the machine to accept her passport. A side note, he said because he was wearing a suit, everyone thought he was an airport employee, and were asking him all sorts of questions, so he was helping a lot of folks. Finally, an airline employee tried to help and told them to just check in when they checked her baggage. So they are in the check in line when the first bomb went off about 10-15 feet away. He said he felt like he had died for just a moment. He gets up and gets outside, which was a miracle because he was in no shape to even walk and then a second bomb went off inside. He had 2nd & 3rd degree burns and a lot of shrapnel had hit his body. (they are called Nail bombs, because they are full of nails). His iPad, watch, and left shoe were blown off his body. Unbeknownst to him an Achilles heel had ruptured when hit by some shrapnel. He said he was covered in blood and in pretty bad shape, especially his foot.

But he said, once the bomb hit and he miraculously made it outside, an overwhelming sense of peace enveloped him and stayed with him until he got help. He also said he felt complete forgiveness for whomever had caused the death and destruction.  His companion, who had been knocked out from the blast, came to and found him outside the airport doors, and gave him a blessing. He dropped the first vial of oil, and had to pull out a second one. Brother Wells asked him if he wanted him to give him a blessing and he said no, that Brother Wells was in no shape to give one. He said "The Lord tended me" , several times and I thought that was a lovely way to put it. He spent several months in the hospital at the University of Utah, while the doctors saved his right hand (which he still had a glove on), and his left foot. There were lots of skin grafting and he had to learn to walk again. But he said through it all, "the Lord tended me".  He said when he was in the hospital he would sit in a sitting area overlooking the campus, wondering when he would get out. He now attends U of U in the engineering program (not sure which one). He said one day after he had gotten out of the hospital and was in school, he was walking up the hill on campus and he looked up at the hospital and saw himself looking down on him from the hospital window where he used to sit. 

He said he believed because the Lord has always been there for him, tending him. A side note, he applied again to the Naval Academy and got accepted and enters in June. 

The rule in the mission for the young missionaries is if you have an investigator you can bring to the devotionals you can come, but if you don't you can't come, but I think President Johnson told all the missionaries they could come. It was a packed house. They always have a special musical number by the missionaries. We had two elders sing Rock of Ages to a piano and violin accompaniment. It was outstanding. We love seeing  to see who has the musical talents. 

What is almost as amazing as the main speakers are the prayers and testimonies that are given by new converts.  This time a sister prayed that had been baptized on Friday and received the Holy Ghost that day on Sunday. They are simple and pure prayers untouched by the repetitiveness that overcomes our prayers at times. The testimonies were given by a couple who had been baptized this month.  They said their marriage was on the rocks, they had searched for a church that felt right and had given up. They were on their 2nd or 3rd set of missionaries when Elder McFarland said, "Look, give it a month. A month of praying, and reading the Book of Mormon, and if after a month you don't want to have us here anymore we will leave for good."  And here they were sharing their testimonies. They were so grateful that is makes me ashamed of the times I take the gospel for granted. 

The other testimony was born by Brother Fred Bloch, a school teacher, who said the scripture, "by their fruits, ye shall know them" was a constant during his investigation of the gospel. For him, everyone he met in the church were the best examples. He was baptized on Christmas Eve 2016 and thought it would be a simple affair, but in true Mormon fashion the members did it up right for him, food and all. He said it was the best Christmas.

I wanted to write this down before I forgot what I felt when I listened to Brother Wells and the new members and how it makes me feel about the gospel, Jesus Christ, and my testimony. So grateful to be tended by my Savior.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Harper's Ferry, WV

Saturday, April 21st, drove to Harper's Ferry, WV.  The most important things to know about Harper's Ferry are:

It's sits right on the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, a very beautiful spot. Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia meet there. Thomas Jefferson visited there once, hiked up to a very high spot and declared the site, "perhaps one of the most stupendous scene in nature."

George Washington set up an armory and arsenal in Harper's Ferry, which was one of only two in the United States. His brother moved close by, and started Charles Town.

It became a modern, industrial area, with canals, railroads, and turbines to generate electrical power. It was a very prosperous town, with many businesses.

Meriwether Lewis purchased all the weapons and hardware needed for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, from the Amory and Arsenal, which included a collapsible iron boat frame, which ironically did not work.

Harper's Ferry is where in 1859, abolitionist (very radical) John Brown, in an effort to organize  and arm slaves to end slavery, took over the government arsenal. Long story, but if I counted right, 16 were killed and five were hanged, including John Brown.

During the Civil War, Harper's Ferry, changed hands between the north and south eight times. Both sides bombed the h, e, double hockey sticks out of the town, railroad, armory, arsenal, and canals, and it never recovered it's previous prosperity.

The site of Storer College, established after the Civil War, a freedman's school open to all regardless of sex, race, or religion.

Harper's Ferry National Historic Park, the Appalachian National Historic Trail, and the Shenandoah National Park all border the area.

It is a beautiful and very interesting place. It rained, so the crowds were small and we had a fun day.

We saw a mom explaining to her kids what a pay phone is......


Saturday, April 22, 2017

United States Naval Acadamy Annapolis, Maryland

Monday, April 17th, some of the senior missionaries took a tour of the U.S. Naval Academy in beautiful Annapolis, MD. It was so impressive.  Annapolis is the state capitol of Maryland, and sits on the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Severn River,  about 30 miles east of Washington, D.C. It is a beautiful town complete with cobblestone streets, and a beautiful wharf and marina.

The tour of the Academy was by Elder and Sister Okeson, military relations missionaries.  He is retired Navy, graduate of University of Idaho and  had a stellar career in commanding nuclear submarines and other navy nuclear work.  He was a walking encyclopedia about the Navy and the Academy, so it was a great tour.

When in Rome, go Navy!

Navy mascot, the goat -  there's a story there.

Officer housing

View from the Academy, of the state capital building. The lightening rod on top is a
"Ben Franklin", constructed and grounded to his specifications.  It has been up there
for more than 225 years.

Academy's superintendent's home

These eight  pictures are of the Naval Academy Chapel, seats
2500, and used by Catholic and Protestant congregations.
There is  many stained glass windows each depicting a
biblical scene. Very beautiful.

The last picture is a row that is closed off and lighted every Sunday
for the midshipmen who never returned from battle.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Fort McHenry

Saturday, April, 15th, we drove to Baltimore, MD, to see Fort McHenry National Monument.  It is where the Battle of Baltimore took place during the War of 1812 between the United States and England. Frances Scott Key wrote The Star Spangled Banner from a ship in the harbor, while watching the British try to bomb Fort McHenry into defeat. In the early morning, after a 25 hour battle, he waited for the smoke to clear to see if the United States flag was still flying and it was.  The visitor's center has a inspiring film that tells the story. The fort is shaped like a star so they could put cannons on each star point.  A flag, flies in the exact spot as one did the morning after the 25 hour battle. We loved the film and the grounds. Look up the story.  A great place to take family.

Aerial view

The are getting the cannons out and refurbished for the summer.

Entrance to the harbor where the British bombed the fort.

Something about a uniform....

'Tis the star-spangled banner!  Oh long may it wave o're the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Monday, April 17, 2017


On Saturday, March 25, we took some chairs out to Elder and Sister Boren who live across the Bay Bridge in a small town of Centreville, est. 1794.  It is a very quaint town, about 4,000 folks.  We had lunch at Doc's - fish tacos, so good. Took a picture of a beautiful house for sale.  Would have loved to have seen the inside. Then we took a walk down to the wharf, and saw a osprey nest with at least one baby, making a lot of noise.  We love the Boren's. They have a great life story, full of ups and some amazing trials that they have come through.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge, five total lanes, four miles long, 186' high

Elder and Sister Boren

Centreville, MD

Sunday, April 9, 2017

April 12th, A Day to Remember

Thursday, April 12th was a day to remember!  On Wednesday night there was a departing
dinner at the mission home for six missionaries going home on Thursday. Five were flying
out and one elder's parents came to pick him up. A relief society president from a ward in
the mission is a caterer and she provided dinner, which was lovely. She is from Cameroon
and I would love to hear her story. The departing missionaries were counseled by President
and Sister Johnson and then asked to bear their testimonies. We sang, we prayed...the Spirit!
No words. 

So we wake up to a little rain on Thursday morning and head into the office. About 1:30
there was an urgent tornado warning on Sister Thompson's phone for the county we are
in, Montgomery County, plus other areas in  Maryland and Virginia. It was news to us
in the office as we are in the basement and don't see or hear much of outside during the
day. The storm blew through in under an hour, but it packed a punch. There were no
tornadoes by us, but two little ones in DC and lots of heavy rain, hail, and wind. Greg
was driving in it and cars were pulled off the road until it dissipated. He said that was
the worst rain he has ever driven in. Unbeknownst to us, because we don't hear much
news, a huge storm had been on its way from the south since Wednesday causing a lot
of damage in the south.

So around 2:00, Elder Sekeme, a departing french speaking elder from New Caledonia,
called to say his flight had been cancelled.  He was by himself, in a different terminal
from the other missionaries. The missionaries don't have phones in the airport. They
give them up when they leave as they are the church's. The airlines called the office
twice, once to tell him to pick up his luggage, and then to tell him he had a new itinerary,
but we could not call him.  So we worried about him all day, hoping he was okay.

The other missionaries flights were cancelled also.  One sister got out, headed to California,
and the other three did not. They were headed to Colorado, Utah, and The Netherlands.  
President Johnson had told them to get in line and not leave until they had a new itinerary
or they would never get out. After waiting all day in line they all got new itineraries,
found Elder Sekeme and President and Sister Johnson went and picked them up and took
them back to the mission home around 9:30 p.m. It was a long day for them and now they
are leaving on Saturday and Sunday and the weather is lovely today. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Letter to Miller Grandkids April 6, 2017

Hello, Grandkids,

Thank-you for your letters. Grandpa and I loved them! We loved our hugs and in a few days you will see them on my blog with this letter. We have a big bulletin board with your pictures and your Banks and Huler cousin's pictures on it and we looked at them every day.  I will try to answer all your questions.  Number one, Lainey, you can still call us Grandpa and Grandma, unless you were just trying it out for size, Elder and Sister Banks. How about Sister Lainey Miller and Elder Brady Miller!

We are doing really good. We are so grateful to be helping the missionaries and mission president and his wife. We feel very needed and that's a good thing at our age. We know now that no matter where  we served our mission, we would feel this same way. We feel like we are exactly where we should be. We know the Lord sent us here to help this mission.  Has our perspective on life changed? No, but we feel very "zeroed" in on doing what we have been called to do. We do feel the Spirit more everyday, we pray for it every day, so we can help the missionaries invite people to Jesus Christ. There is a lot of work that goes on in the background to help missionaries have a place to live, a car or bike to drive, gas money, and everything else you can think of that a person needs to live. Lots of bills have to be paid, apartments inspected and kept up, lots of letters written, lots of training for the missionaries. We work in the mission office Monday through Friday. Saturday is our "P" day. Ask your dad what that means.

Your Grandpa is a good missionary. If a delivery man comes into the office, or we are somewhere and he gets a chance he always talks to people about the church. He invites them to go to the Visitor's Center at the Washington D.C. Temple. There are sister missionaries at the visitor's center every day of the week and they have programs there all the time, so it is a good place to invite people too.  I try to follow his example.

We live in an apartment that is furnished by the church. We brought our bedding, towels, and our car.
It is in a nice, quiet neighborhood.  Grandpa and I each have our own bathroom and that is sweet!  We buy our own groceries and cook our own meals. We are trying to find good places to eat out, but so far not having too much luck.  We found a great pizza place, Ledo's. We think we have found a good Mexican restaurant, might look some more.  I am really missing good Asian food.  Once we went to a popular chili place, where you just have chili on a pile of spaghetti, not so good. We tried Dunkin Doughnuts, not so good. We have found a wonderful French bakery, where we can get a wonderful panini sandwich, cookies, and French pastries. I am going to take pictures of all the bread in there sometime, and maybe buy a loaf.

We have enjoyed the trips we have taken to see the historic sites of Washington DC. We have a lot of places we want to go see.  We hear it will be beautiful here when spring comes and all the trees bloom. Today, a big storm blew through, quickly, there were three tornados, but not by us. There were a lot of trees that fell down on houses. It rained so hard here, Grandpa was driving in it and said he had never been in so much rain.

We will be home for the Banks reunion and would love to have it at your house. Your parents get to decide. When we are done with our mission we are going to drive to your house first!

Good luck with soccer, volleyball and everything else you are doing! We would love to see any pictures you send of your activities. We love you, and miss you!

Love, Grandma Banks


You are so cute Ava!

I Love you too, Lila!

Future Missionary!

Big hugs, Lainey!